The Merchant (play)

Shylock - a Study by Joseph Keiley

The Merchant is a 1976 play in two acts[1] by the English dramatist Arnold Wesker. It is based on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and focus on the Jewish Shylock character, that play's principal antagonist.[2][3]

Wesker began writing the play after seeing a 1973 performance by Laurence Olivier.[2] It premiered in Stockholm in 1976 and was later renamed Shylock.[3] The play was meant to premiere on Broadway in 1977, but the Broadway production was cancelled due to the death of the plays' lead, multiple Tony Award winner Zero Mostel. Wesker had high hopes that the play would make a big profit, but this did not happen.[4] He wrote a book about the play in 1999, The Birth of Shylock and the Death of Zero Mostel.[5][2]

In this play, Shylock is a good man and Antonio's, the title character in Shakespeare's play, good friend.[6] They bond in their love of knowledge and mutual dislike of the antisemitism in their community.[7][4] Shylock's demand for a pound of flesh is meant as a jest, but he can not retract it. Both Shylock and Antonio are relieved when the demand is denied in court.[1][6]

Reviewing The Merchant, critic Michael Billington wrote "Wesker’s point comes across clearly: that anti-Jewish prejudice is ingrained in English life."[3] John Gross, another critic, stated that "As a humanistic sermon, The Merchant has much to recommend it. As a play, it lacks bite".[8]

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  1. ^ a b Cerasano, S. P. (16 September 2018). "A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice". Psychology Press. p. 204. Retrieved 16 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c "Arnold Wesker, 83, Writer of Working-Class Dramas, Dies". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Pascal, Julia (12 April 2016). "Sir Arnold Wesker obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b Dornan, Reade W. (1 May 2014). "Arnold Wesker: A Casebook". Routledge. p. 101,64. Retrieved 16 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Arnold Wesker, Major British Playwright of "Angry Young Men" Era, Dies at 83 - Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b Shakespeare, William (30 April 2015). "The Merchant of Venice". Penguin UK. Retrieved 16 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Billington, Michael (13 April 2016). "Arnold Wesker: the radical bard of working Britain". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  8. ^ Gross, John (4 January 1994). "Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy". Simon and Schuster. p. 335. Retrieved 20 September 2018 – via Google Books.